Permission to publish works appearing in The Olivetree Review is given by their creators through a license. All copyright is owned by the original authors. Submissions cannot be returned. Spring 2010, No. 47 This magazine is published using student activity fees. For more information, visit us in TH212 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cover Art: all I want is your plumes Rebecca Kish
Managing Editor Senior Fiction/Non-Fiction Editor Senior Poetry Editor Senior Art Editor Publicity Manager Design Manager Treasurer
Reuben Santos Shakti Castro Rebecca Kish Megan Marino Jessica Taghap Nora Milman Victoria Sharoyan
Rebecca Kish Megan Marino Victoria Sharoyan Malvina Shishmanian
Paige Alexus Shakti Castro Robert Feliu RoseAnn Fino Stella Milnes Sharita Sharmin Alexandra Shytsman
Rebecca Kish Jason Pfister Crystal Rivera Victoria Sharoyan Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
18 20 22 43 63 64 71 72 74
the softest skin Rebecca Kish
all I want is your plumes Rebecca Kish
Brooklyn Glow Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
People on the Train V Olga Rechits
Dog Series 3 Carlos Guzman
Rises in the east Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
Fiction 7 25 44 50 75
Clara at Work Christina Tesoro
The Return Jon Ford
The Highway Canyon Julie Morse
California Blues Mariette K. Kalinowski
6 21 23
40 41 49 66 69
Over Coffee and Cigarettes Simona Blat
A Wednesday Night in Thomas Hunter Hall Jon Ford
I’m Just Trying to Make Two Scrambled Eggs on a Toasted Roll Robert Korec
The Queer Kiss Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
Cajetan’s Lady Shakti Castro
Confessional Parts Crystal Rivera
I Heard About This Thing Called “Finding Yourself” But I Want Nothing To Do With It Robert Korec
Over Coffee and Cigarettes the way the light is playing off the table as you drink your morning coffee with the sun seeping in through the dusty blinds as it unveils the curling smoke of your cigarette, rising, fading towards the suicide bombers at the Moscow train station while the fire alarm explodes from the incense you’ve been burning and echoes through your mind, pulsing, throbbing consuming your thoughts about the particular flowers that were planted outside but somehow made it to your kitchen table and are now leaning a little to the left, closer to the window where the sun is ablaze, begging to see you, and the March breeze stirs the leaves as you hear the wailing birds in the distance and you think ‘here’s a moment from another world’ but by the time you realize it it’s already apparent and will never happen again to anyone
Clara At Work Christina Tesoro Being a receptionist is the best way to become quickly acquainted with some of the worst that humanity has to offer. The doctor’s office becomes, for whatever reason, an arena for the most flamboyant displays of rudeness and thoughtlessness, rivaled only by similar demonstrations of discourtesy in subway stations and airports. Take, for example, the woman who just walked in. The one wearing the headphones. That woman has been a patient here for twelve years and has never learned to approach the desk and state her name in order to be checked in. Dr. Neilson is, of course, running very far behind as it is, and she will have to wait about an hour anyway, but since she decided not to come up and announce herself, and because the receptionist was busy checking answering the telephone, checking insurance eligibility, and making a pot of coffee for the doctors, an extra quarter of an hour will be added to that wait. Finally looking up, the receptionist sighs and takes a stab at the woman’s name. “Mrs. Gayger?” The woman slowly turns her head to face the receptionist’s desk. She doesn’t remove her headphones. The receptionist tries
again. “Mrs. Gayger?” “It’s GUY-ger. G-e-i-g-e-r. GUY-ger,” Mrs. Geiger says, pulling her headphones off roughly. The receptionist nods mutely and checks “Sylvia Geiger” off the day sheet. She pulls out the chart from the file cabinet behind her to ask the perfunctory questions. “Ms. Geiger, has anything changed since the last time you were here? Your address or insurance?” “No.” “Could I just see your insurance card to double check?” “I just told you it hasn’t changed. Why do you need to see it?” Patients in a doctor’s office know that they are usually in for a long and boring wait. Some bring things to do, like music to listen to, or books to read, or Blackberries to tamper with, or cell phones to chatter on loudly, even though the sign in the front of the office clearly states that the use of cell phones within the office is prohibited. But most patients find that even with all the options by which they can keep themselves occupied, nothing is quite as interesting as making the 8-hour workday of the receptionist absolutely insufferable. A simple request is almost always denied, and usually with a venomous sort of pleasure. “Just in case you’ve received a new card-” “Well, I haven’t.” Very well. Mrs. Geiger turns on her heel, adjusting her headphones, sitting back down on the bench. She stares avidly at the water cooler, and when she sees there are no more plastic cups, she turns her beady eyes on the receptionist. The receptionist doesn’t notice, because the phones have started ringing again–line one, line two, line three–all at the same time. Everyone’s eyes are falling out of their heads today, it seems. And it’s only 9:38. “What’s your name?” Mrs. Geiger suddenly demands from across the room. “Clara Nuñez,” the receptionist says promptly. She has put all three lines on hold and watches their lights blinking furiously up at her. She hopes that Mrs. Geiger doesn’t intend on befriending her.
“Well, Clara, how would you like it if I called you Claire?” Mrs. Geiger’s voice is as pointed as her nose. The receptionist is mystified and decides that it might be best not to respond. Mrs. Geiger is very old, and perhaps is about to die soon. The receptionist reaches to answer the patient on line one. “I bet you wouldn’t like it if people mispronounced your name.” “No, Mrs. Geiger, I wouldn’t,” Clara says slowly, her hand frozen over the receiver. “Well then I would appreciate it if you made an effort to pronounce my name properly,” Mrs. Geiger says. Incredulous, Clara nods. Mrs. Geiger turns around to stare at the ugly paintings on the wall. The one directly behind her is the pale, horribly done portrait of a woman with a long, pale face and a forlorn expression. Clara wishes the phones in the office were cordless–she would like to finish Mrs. Geiger off with a telephone straight to the occipital lobe. The telephone has other ideas, however, and starts beeping shrilly to remind Clara that she has patients on hold. Not all offices are like this office, the receptionist reflects. Dr. Neilson has an entire wall full of charts, some of them as thick as dictionaries, and all of them from patients who are sixty at their very youngest. He sees an average of fifteen to twenty patients a day, and generally there is an appointment scheduled every fifteen minutes. The receptionist knows that this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever because on average, an appointment – even a “quick check” or post op – will take an hour at the very least. Clara assumes that the office is some strange hell-dimension in which standard temporal rules do not apply. Clara has spent nearly every day of the last three years surrounded by crotchety old people, but sometimes patients still manage to surprise her with their surliness. Mrs. Geiger, turned around now and watching Clara carefully for another egregious insult, is one of them. The receptionist ignores her and concentrates on answering the phone as cheerfully as possible. Patients who call in for an appointment are generally told that they have at least six weeks to wait before the next available date. When there are three phone lines of patients who want to make appointments,
imparting this information to three separate and irate people is an incredibly daunting task, but if confronted with a cheerful receptionist, at least some of the patients will try to remain civil. First there are the patients who start talking before you even get a chance to speak. They launch headfirst into a long-winded and convoluted story that usually involves losing track of time and realizing too late that their yearly eye exam was due a month and a half ago, and they desperately need to be seen as soon as possible because something dreadful might have happened to their eyes (it hasn’t). Then there are the patients who believe that they can trick the receptionist into believing that they are close personal friends of the doctor–while simultaneously mispronouncing his name. (“Sweetheart, could you just ask Dr. Nelson how the kids are? We go way back…I’ve been meaning to give him a ring at home but it must have just slipped my mind…”). Finally there are the semifamous patients: the obscure writers, the shriveled old documentary film-maker who dresses like a rich yet fashion-disabled teenager, the frightening older man who was apparently quite a famous screen-writer, and who was also accused of statutory and/or date rape four times. The trial is pending, but he managed to bail himself out, and comes in too frequently for Clara’s liking. He is also recovering from a stroke, so his speech is impaired and he speaks in a freakish guttural holler and makes violent gestures at Clara when she doesn’t understand him. All three archetypes of patients react the same way to the news that their check-ups are not pressing enough to be seen within the next month. “What?” they demand, and the receptionist holds the phone away from her ear for the sake of her eardrums. “What kind of office are you running, anyway?” The receptionist would wish to state for the record that she is not responsible at all for the running of the office; she is just doing a job that thirteen dollars an hour does not nearly make worthwhile. On line three is an especially difficult patient, and the receptionist is not surprised to learn that this one happens to be a doctor herself. She has a strange accent, but her voice rings shrilly with the authoritarian tone that all doctors must go to med school to acquire and perfect. Another doctor referred her to Dr. Neilson and she has been trying to make an appointment for the past two days, damn it. The receptionist wonders idly if Dr. Neilson would consider his Fellow Healers more
important than your run-of-the-mill rich bastards who are on lines one and three. Probably. “I just want to let you know that I have never heard of anything so ridiculous as having to wait two months for an appointment!” “Dr. Neilson sees a lot of patients and some of the days are reserved for special procedures-” “Regardless, it’s absolutely preposterous that you’re going to make me wait that long! How does he plan on staying in business? None of my other doctors ever have such long wait periods.” The receptionist would like to point out that all the doctors she has ever gone to (especially her gynecologist) usually have a six-week waiting period anyway before she can be seen. She bets that her uterus could fall out of her body and start talking to her and she would still have to wait at least two weeks, thank you very much. Instead of pointing this out to the patient, however, the receptionist puts her on hold, surreptitiously erases a “Reserved” spot in the upcoming week, and picks up the line again, exclaiming happily (hysterically, desperately, manically) that there has just been a cancellation for next Tuesday! (Go figure.) Usually, it is not worth incurring the wrath of the office manager to book people into “Reserved” just to get them to shut up, but in this case the receptionist will do anything to get this one off the phone. Clara’s stomach grumbles impatiently, and she wishes she had stopped for a bagel this morning rather than forgoing breakfast in favor of buying stamps for the office. Mrs. Geiger has still not seen the doctor yet but does not seem to be bothered by this. She is still sitting by the water cooler, but her headphones are resting silently around her neck. She is watching Clara with malevolent interest, and Clara fervently hopes that Mrs. Geiger is going to have something viciously injected into her eye today. It is now 11:16, and because it is Thursday, Dr. Neilson’s associate, a pretty young doctor named Dr. Harrison, is sharing the office today. She only works on Thursdays, on account of her 1-year-old twin redheads at home. Dr. Harrison came from an office full of technicians. At this office, there is only Clara. Clara imagines that it must have been something like a factory at Dr. Harrison’s old office, judging by the new doctor’s behavior. Dr. Harrison gives her shiny new
receptionist instructions on how she could improve office efficiency even while Clara is desperately trying to communicate in sign language to a patient at the front desk why they owe ninety-five dollars and simultaneously explaining for the fourth time where the patient on Line Two should look to find out if they need a written referral from their insurance company to see Dr. Neilson. Dr. Harrison has also recently developed the unfortunate new habit of repeating everything she says to the receptionist; she clearly thinks the only way Clara can learn is through constant, irritating reiteration. The receptionist was never responsible for dilating the eyes of patients before Dr. Harrison started working at the office, and every single one of Dr. Harrison’s patients not only needs their eyes dilated, but also needs special pictures taken of their retina and optic nerve. Clara once made the mistake of letting the office manager hear how she didn’t mind doing these pictures, they were actually sort of fun, and they have become solely her responsibility ever since. Clara despises Thursdays because there are usually ten extra patients and zero extra secretaries. Dr. Neilson and Dr. Harrison have two wildly different approaches to handling patients as they come to the end of their appointments. Dr. Neilson, for example, walks up to the front desk to say good-bye to the patient and toss the chart carelessly at the receptionist so that she can check that he finished his note and marked off all the procedures properly on the insurance billing slip. Dr. Harrison hoards the patient charts all day and hands them to the receptionist as she is putting on her jacket and scarf to leave for the day. The receptionist dreams of leaving the office one day and finding a new place to work–a new office that will have a large window with a fantastic view of the city and some daffodils sitting prettily on the windowsill in clay vases painted robin’s egg blue. It will have mood lighting, and an old fashioned typewriter (because there will be no need to type quickly in her office), and a rotary phone (because there will be no need to have Medicare on speed-dial), and perhaps a cabinet full of expensive wines. Everything will be furnished in dark wood, and the walls will be painted a deep crimson color, and her seat will not be the uncomfortable swivel chair of Dr. Neilson’s office, but rather a luxurious cream-colored armchair upholstered in satin that makes deep impressions in the thick carpet with its huge claw-carved dark wood
feet. At 1:34, the receptionist is startled from her reverie as Dr. Neilson tosses a chart her way. Unprepared for this, the chart knocks into Clara’s coffee mug, which spills the last remnants of her cold coffee everywhere. She pushes the keyboard under the desk quickly to keep it from being drenched, and bites her lip when some of the coffee spills onto her new cream suede skirt. Dr. Neilson starts cursing. Nothing would make Clara happier that to tell him that if he didn’t throw charts at her, there would be no risk of coffee spilling on patient chartsand that coffee is impossible to get out of cream suede-but the doctor is already escorting the next patient into his office. The receptionist imagines herself leaving the coffee as it is on the desk, to fill the room with its stale and pervading scent as she walks out the door to leave the doctors to their devices. She imagines a new job in which doctors will say “Please” and “Thank you” and will hand her charts cordially when they are done with their patients. She imagines an office in which she gets a chance to actually finish her coffee while it is still hot. Pat, the neurotic office manager, can sense trouble almost before it comes to pass, and she is out from the back office before Clara has a chance to reach for a napkin to sop up the coffee. “What happened?” Clara, knowing that there is absolutely no use trying to explain that the doctor threw a chart at her and knocked over the coffee mug, mutters that she spilled her coffee. “I can see that. You’re so clumsy, Claire. There’s Lysol in the closet, make sure you use that.” The receptionist sighs quietly, not meeting Pat’s eyes, because that might be seen as some form of insubordination, and continues to mop up the coffee with a tissue. “Don’t use a tissue, look at how it’s ripping and getting stuck to the desk. Go into the kitchen and get those heavy duty paper towels,” Pat says. The receptionist clenches her teeth and dutifully goes into the kitchen, grabbing a handful of paper towels so violently that the entire roll flutters to the floor. She swears under her breath, and looks up to see Pat standing at the doorway disapprovingly. “I know this job can be frustrating sometimes,” Pat says. She has just spent the last forty-five minutes on the phone with her daugh-
ter, Lissa, in Oregon; she knows nothing of the sort. “But really, you have to try to control yourself. It’s unprofessional if the patients hear you speak like that.” The most important thing about the receptionist’s new office is that there will be no Pat. It is now 3:43. There has been a lull in the phones, and Clara finally gets a chance to sit down at the desk and eat the Chinese food that has been sitting out for the past two hours. Her soup is cold, and she gets up to stick it in the microwave. She puts the container of soup in the microwave and slams the door closed, hitting the only button that works, the one labeled “Frozen Dinner.” The microwave timer is set for thirteen minutes. She goes back to sit at her desk to shuffle papers around in an attempt to look busy for the next three minutes while her soup heats up, because if Pat sees the receptionist standing in front of the microwave watching soup boil, she will have a conniption. Dr. Harrison is suddenly standing at the receptionist’s side, demanding the release form for one of her patients that she used to see at her old practice. True to form, Dr. Harrison makes sure to repeat her instructions in case Clara doesn’t understand. “Make sure you write to them telling them that they need to send me all of the records this time. All the records, got it? Last time they held half of them back just to make things difficult. Also, could you do a quick picture for nice Mrs. Levi, here? Did you dilate her?” “No,” the receptionist replies. “I thought I showed you how to dilate patients. Did you forget?” “No, I just haven’t had a chance yet-” “Listen, I know you’re really busy–” Dr. Harrison affects a sort of half-smile of deepest heartfelt commiseration, and Clara wishes fleetingly for a semi-automatic, or a sledge-hammer, “but my patients need to be dilated as soon as they come in. As soon as they come in. Every single one of them. Because you know, if you forget it, and poor Mrs. Levi is just sitting here for twenty minutes, then I can’t start her examination, and that’s just a really inefficient way to run an office. And with two doctors here, Claire, we really can’t afford to be inefficient, can we?”
“Nope,” Clara says. She feels slightly ill and finds that she can’t really feel her face. Her heart flutters and she is singularly aware of Mrs. Geiger sitting by the water cooler like a malicious owl, clearly enjoying Clara’s excoriation. Dr. Harrison seems concerned for a moment, but walks away as Clara takes a deep breath and shuffles the papers that are scattered haphazardly on her desk. Mrs. Geiger walks down the hallway to Dr. Neilson, who is waiting for her. Clara hears her laugh to herself, right before she hears the microwave beep from the kitchen. She still hasn’t gotten a chance to eat her lunch, and now her soup has been heating up for thirteen minutes. As she gets up to remove what must now be a mutilated nuclear-reactive mess of melted plastic and wonton out of the microwave, Clara’s breath hitches and her palms become moist. Before she started working in this office, forgetting a bowl of soup in the microwave would never have reduced her to tears, but Clara now feels this morning’s caffeine wearing off and she still hasn’t eaten all day. “Clara! I need you!” Dr. Neilson barks from the tiny dark room where he is taking a photograph of Mrs. Geiger’s retina. Clara jumps and her scalding hot soup spills on her fingers. She mouths curses silently and dumps the soup into the garbage can, heading over quickly to the photo room. “Hold Mrs. Geiger’s eyelid up for me,” Dr. Neilson says. Holding open Mrs. Geiger’s eye is quite possibly the very last thing that Clara would like to do, and the old lady knows it. “Oh, Dr. Neilson,” Mrs. Geiger croons. “Make her go wash her hands first. Its flu season, you know, and I’m an old lady. I don’t want to risk getting sick.” “Go,” Dr. Neilson says impatiently. Clara walks to the bathroom and runs warm water over her hands. She reaches for the soap, deciding to use dishwashing soap rather than regular hand soap. She figures the dishwashing soap is stronger, and wishes there were Latex gloves in the office, but Dr. Neilson, for all his professionalism, insists that Latex gloves aren’t necessary for administering dilating eye drops or holding open eyelids. “Clara! I don’t have all day!” Dr. Neilson calls. The receptionist dries her hands off quickly and sprints back to the photograph room. “Patients to see,” Dr. Neilson says, tapping his watch and baring his
teeth in what Clara supposes anal-retentive doctors offer in place of a smile. Her stomach churns as she carefully pulls back Mrs. Geiger’s upper lid with her right index finger; she uses her left hand to steady the patient’s head against the forehead rest. “Ow!” Mrs. Geiger complains. “Don’t hurt her, Clara,” Dr. Neilson admonishes. The phones start ringing and the receptionist’s leg twitches but otherwise she stands still. She begins to get a cramp in her lower back from standing awkwardly over Mrs. Geiger. Pat storms angrily out of the back office from where she was one again chatting with Lissa. Pat gives the receptionist a nasty look as she heads to the front desk, infuriated that she now has to interact with patients while Clara is occupied with Mrs. Geiger’s crusty eyelid. After this, at least, Mrs. Geiger will be leaving. Clara thanks God for small favors. It is 4:51 when the receptionist finally throws away what remains of her lunch, the rest of which sits heavily and uncomfortably in her stomach. She prints out the lists for tomorrow, makes sure that the machines in the back room are off, and takes the mail from the back office to bring with her as she leaves. Dr. Harrison hands her the patient charts from today and asks her to make copies of the billing slips before she leaves. The receptionist checks her watch desperately: it is 4:54. “I’d do it myself,” Dr. Harrison says, noticing this, “but the babysitter gets off work at 5:15, and I’m cutting it close as it is. You know how kids are, and the babysitter really has to leave.” Without a backwards glance, Dr. Harrison is out the door. The receptionist stares at the pile of charts on her pristine desk that, just seconds before, had been cleared of all papers. With a heavy sigh, she grabs all the billing slips and sticks them in the tray on top of the copy machine, hoping that the mechanism the machine has for collating will work this time, so that she does not have to make each copy individually. Somehow, she ends up with 11 blank copies. The receptionist’s heart starts to pound; it is now 5:00PM. She puts the blank pages back in the tray for blank paper, and makes individual copies of the billing slips. She leaves Dr. Harrison’s charts on her desk to file away in the morning. At 5:06, Clara gets her jacket from the back closet and puts it on. She heads to the big office where Dr. Neilson is still with a patient.
She tells him that everyone has paid their co-pays and is good to go when he finishes with them. The doctor turns around from his patient, a little old man 88 years of age. “You worked hard today,” Dr. Neilson states; his voice, while perhaps well meaning, is still a sneer (and a sneer is a sneer is a sneer). He offers the receptionist a rare smile. Clara, disgruntled, insulted, pissed off, wonders why he thinks that it’s amusing or unusual that she has worked hard today. She would like to retort that even if they slapped a “doctor” in front of her name she probably still wouldn’t work half as hard as she worked today. Dr. Neilson doesn’t notice Clara’s fury. He turns back to his patient. “See you in the morning!” he calls loudly into Mr. Friedlander’s right eye. Clara sighs wearily and heads down the hallway and outside. She hears Dr. Neilson’s voice ringing after her as explains loudly to Mr. Brathwaite that no, he wasn’t talking to him.
the softest skin
all I want is your plumes
A Wednesday Night in Thomas Hunter Hall The stump and slap of rising steam Roiling deep within the radiator Gives rise to an October fever dream, Syncopating the evening’s lesson. The heat could make you scream. A steady bass beat from the second floor Taps and raps at the back of my head, While Whitman’s denouncing the Civil War. Don’t know what they do down there, but A party’s going on I just can’t ignore. Hemingway and Fitzgerald sing an elegy Lamenting the death of the American Dream. But a ringtone that sounds like Kenny G. Moans inside a backpack next to me, Arousing us all from our reverie. My professor is opining o’er John Donne, But all I can hear is the siren song, Luring me, calling me down to Lexington, Where my thoughts crash on the pavement below. Those damn fire trucks won’t be outdone. The slap, the bass, the moan, the song, Here in the classroom, where they don’t belong.
I’m Just Trying To Make Two Scrambled Eggs On A Toasted Roll and I find sex unappealing, the stock exchange insignificant. I can’t buy these large-grade eggs one at a time like anyone can buy my vagina as a work-in-progress. “Hold your head up high” that’s what mother always said. That’s why I charge premium rates for non-premium expenses. My eggs are crooked today but at least my roll is inviting. At least something is. At least the man upstairs understands my life-goals. I’m going to be a veterinarian. He thinks I’m a “cat lady” Must be the sequence of my sheets. I’m going to be someone one day. One day my legs can walk back to my mom and not be over idiot-C’s shoulders. Or idiot-B. Or-A.
My eggs taste like that slightly imperfect moment when my mind wakes up right before my body. For 30 seconds – when I can see but not move. For 30 seconds – when my two halves are not in sync. It’s like I’m eating these eggs all the time. It’s like I should’ve woken up one minute before I realized time has separated from its clock, before my body became a controlled substance. But I can see the day when these eggs won’t look like crooked ovaries. When I can dial 7 numbers and hear mom sound like she did when my two halves were in sync.
The Return Jon Ford
I don’t know that I can quite remember where I first heard about it. Maybe it was late one night over drinks at the officers’ club or while I was shopping at the PX one afternoon. I’m just not sure. Of course, I didn’t hear the whole thing at once. I found out about it just like everyone else. Most of it through gossip on the base, then through those terrible articles in the newspaper. At first, I didn’t even realize it was poor Janey McCoughlin they were talking about. Once I did, let me tell you, I thought I might just lose my mind. Not that I was all that close to Janey, but I guess you just don’t imagine that sort of thing happening to someone you know. But it was the little boy that I just felt terrible about. So calm and serious looking. She’d bring him to her piano lessons sometimes and he would sit quietly at my dining room table coloring bits of paper while she worked her way through the scales or one of her practice pieces. Why, as they left he’d often hum little snatches of whatever Janey had been practicing, which struck me as quite remarkable in such a young child. Of course, he was a bit older than I always supposed he was. He was quite small and very slender, and so quiet that he seemed younger to me than any five-year-old I knew. Not that I knew so many,
of course. Ray and I had no children, but there were plenty on the base. He just seemed, oh I don’t know, different somehow. So, when Ray came home and told me that the military police had let his father go, but were still keeping Janey in a holding cell, the boy was the very first thing I thought of. After what I heard I couldn’t imagine they would let the father see him, much less take custody of the poor thing. Of course, Ray told me I should just mind my own business, that what came between a man and his wife was their own affair, but I just couldn’t stop wondering why they would keep Janey. From what I heard…Oh, it’s just so awful I can barely repeat it. Well, I heard she had been beaten and was simply defending herself. I remember thinking to myself, it’s the way they train these men. They teach them to be animals, send them off to active duty and then wonder why they come home angry and violent. If you ask me, it’s simply amazing this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. Now, Janey’s husband, Timothy, had been off on active duty almost a year. I remember her telling me, let me see now, it couldn’t have been more than two months before it all happened, how excited she was that he was coming home and how it would be nice for Tim, Jr., or T.J. as she called him, to have a man around the house. “Timothy’s been overseas so long, it seems like T.J. was just a baby when he left. I’ve been showing him pictures of our wedding and his father holding him just after he was born. Oh, did I tell you? The other day I picked him up from the kindergarten after my shift at the VA and he had made a banner during arts and crafts time. It said ‘Welcome Home Daddy.’ I’m sure his teacher helped him a lot, but I was so proud I nearly cried.” Janey told me this in her apartment one day, the only time I’ve ever been there. She had been saving up to buy a small upright piano, thinking that maybe T.J. might start playing. A few days after it arrived, I had stopped over to take a look at it on my way to an officers’ wives’ luncheon. It was a small first floor apartment, over on the north side in those rows of buildings where the enlisted men’s families are quartered. I remember being surprised by how neat she kept it. I don’t mean that in an unkind way, but most of the homes with children that I’ve seen look as if a cyclone had gone through them; toys and clothing everywhere. Janey’s home had none of that. If I hadn’t seen all the
children’s books on the bookshelves, I might’ve thought she lived there alone. It was only when she offered me a glass of iced tea that I saw the refrigerator, just absolutely covered with snapshots of Janey and T.J. along with a number of finger paintings and school papers stamped with gold stars. “It looks funny, doesn’t it?” she smiled, pointing to the display. She took one of the pictures held by a brightly colored alphabet magnet off the front of the refrigerator and passed it to me. “This is all T.J.’s handiwork. It started off with one picture of the two of us that he had me put up. Now he gets the stepstool out of the closet to put them up himself.” “He’s just a little artist,” I said, admiring the photo. T.J. was wearing a cap and gown, some sort of day school graduation, I suppose. In the photograph he smiled broadly at the camera, his arms wrapped tightly around Janey, who was at his side. I placed the picture back on the refrigerator with the magnet. “I know. I’m very proud of him. I can’t wait for Timothy to see all this.” I remember as she said this she took the snapshot from where I had put it and moved it back to the spot she had taken it from, lower on the refrigerator. Smiling up at me, she almost apologized, “T.J.’s very particular. He notices if I move anything. Well, like I said, I’ll be so glad when Timothy comes home. Soon this’ll be full of pictures of the three of us I suppose.” She looked so bright and young and cheerful as she said this that I couldn’t help but give her a hug. I don’t know, maybe I thought a little bit of her happiness would rub off on me. It’s funny to think about it now. Well, maybe funny isn’t the right word. But I have to admit, I felt just a little jealous of her then. I suppose that’s odd, isn’t it? Particularly when I think of the last time I saw Janey. I know I shouldn’t have, and Ray certainly did his best to talk me out of it, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head that I needed to see her down at the military prison. It took quite a bit of doing, I mean I could barely get a straight answer out of anyone. There was just a terrible confusion as to the charges, and as to whether it was a military or civilian matter, so that every time I spoke to one person they referred me to another. Ray said it was God sending me a clear message to mind my own business, but there was just something about the whole
thing that wouldn’t let me stop thinking about it. I’ll tell you something though; there are times when I wish I had listened to Ray. After going through I don’t know how much red tape, I finally got a call telling me to appear at the Confinement Center, which I had always thought was nothing more than a nice name for a horrid little windowless building over in the west quarter. The young man at the front desk didn’t even look me in the eye as he processed me in and took me into a tiny, square room. If you can believe it, there was only a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling and no furniture to speak of but a metal table and four old office chairs. I remember it was a warm spring day, but it felt so chill and damp in that room, I was glad I had worn a sweater. The officer locked the door behind him and then left me alone for so long I began to think that they had forgotten that I was there. But then I heard the scrape of the lock at the door and the guard led Janey in. It was like some sort of broken shadow version of Janey came into the room. There was an ugly purple bruise at her right eye and her lower lip had been cut. She was wearing a shapeless prison fatigue that was much too large for her, so she could only shuffle over to the table. But, worst of all, it seemed as if the life had just been drained right out of her. The guard walked her to the chair opposite me, sat her down and left us. She sat there for a long time, not saying a word, just staring at her hands and running her finger along the grooves made by the filthy words someone had scratched into the table. “You shouldn’t have come,” she said finally, lifting her hand to her mouth to cover it as she spoke. She said it so flatly and quietly I wasn’t quite sure if she was grateful or angry that I was there. “Well, Janey,” I said, “I just…Well, I just didn’t know if you needed anything or if you might want a visitor or someone to talk to.” She laughed. It was only a small, short laugh but it was so unlike the shy, gentle woman who had come into my home once a week for piano lessons that I involuntarily raised my hand to my chest. It felt just as if someone had suddenly laid something cold and hard there. “Talk,” she laughed again and the words suddenly came pouring out of her. “That’s all they want me to do. ‘When did he first hit you? How did it start? What made you take the knife from the drawer? Can we go over it one more time? He says he was sleeping when you
stabbed him in the shoulder, is that true? Why would you say he wasn’t your husband? Why? Why?’” She smacked the table with the flat part of her hand. She looked up at me and to tell you the honest truth, I believe it was only then that she even realized who I was. “Oh, Janey. So it’s true. You did… With a knife?” It was horrible of me to ask I guess, but it just came right out of me. “With the kitchen knife. I’ve told them I was protecting T.J., but it’s not even true. It was T.J.” “Janey,” I said. “That doesn’t make sense, either you were protecting T.J. or you weren’t.” I leaned into the table to get a better look at Janey. Her hair was hanging down, covering part of her face. “No, I mean it was T.J.’s idea. T.J. made me do it.” Well, I didn’t know what to say. I just sat back in the chair. She started speaking again. Slowly, staring down at the cracked linoleum, she began to speak. I just remember at first her voice seemed so far away, then it grew and grew, until I felt like it was cutting off the air in the room. “You’re the only person I’ve told. It was T.J. It all just happened so slowly I never even thought about it. At first he seemed so excited to have his father come home. He would go on and on about how he and I could have a party and make his Daddy a cake. How he and I could go to the park and the playground with his Daddy. But you see, Timothy had written saying he wanted to take me to the shore the week after he returned since it would be our anniversary. I told T.J. that he would get to stay with his grandparents while his father and I went away. I thought he would be excited, but he got so upset with me. No matter what I said, he couldn’t seem to understand why he wasn’t going with us. I didn’t really notice at first, but he stopped making plans for the three of us and then one day, about a week or so before Timothy came home, T.J. took a picture of Timothy off my dresser and asked me who it was. “‘Honey, that’s Daddy. You know that,’ I told him. “He shook his head and held the picture out to me, ‘That’s not my Daddy.’ “‘T.J. It’s Daddy. You just don’t remember. You weren’t even going to school before he left. It was so long ago, you just don’t
remember.’” Janey was quiet for a while, then she slowly raised her eyes from the linoleum floor. “I thought he just didn’t remember. He didn’t say anything about it again. I sort of forgot, I mean I thought it was just one of those things kids do. I should have been more careful with him, but I was just so happy about seeing Timothy that I didn’t pay it much attention. But when Timothy came home, T.J. was so different with him. He’s usually very good about playing by himself and doing what interests him. But suddenly he couldn’t do a thing for himself. The first night we were all together he refused to go to bed and just wouldn’t stop crying. Timothy was so tired, he had been traveling for almost thirty hours and he was just worn out. I went into T.J.’s room and tried to calm him down, and that’s when he started again. He began to whisper to me, almost like he was afraid, ‘That’s not my Daddy. That’s not my Daddy.’ “‘T.J, now you stop this right now.’ I tried to be firm with him, but he was really scaring me. “‘No, Mommy, no. He’s lying. He’s not Daddy. He’s a faker, he’s faking.’ He took my hand with both of his and tried to pull me to him, his face was all hot and wet from crying. “‘T.J., T.J. No, no, no.’ I sat down on the side of his bed and took him in my arms, rocking him and wiping the tears off his face. ‘You’re just remembering wrong. You’ll see. Tomorrow we’ll wake up and you and I can fix breakfast for Daddy and you’ll see. It’s just been so long you don’t remember.’ “I finally got him to sleep and went back into my room. Timothy was asleep in the bed, so worn out he didn’t even wake up when I came in. I laid down next to him, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what T.J. said. I laid in bed for a long time that night watching Timothy sleep from the other side of the bed. He was snoring and every once in a while he would shake his head and mumble, something I never remembered him doing. It kind of spooked me and I started to feel uncomfortable with someone else in my bed after so long. I feel so embarrassed. I mean it was my own husband next to me. But it had been such a long time, it felt like he was a stranger. “The next morning I was awake long before Timothy and T.J. so I made breakfast for us all. I thought we’d all have a nice meal,
but we ended up eating in silence. T.J. was still being standoffish and refused to eat. After a while Timothy swatted him on the behind and made him finish his food. He didn’t really hit him hard that time. Just a swat, but I had never seen him get angry with T.J. like that before. T.J. didn’t cry, he just stared at Timothy for a bit, then he ate his breakfast and went into his bedroom. I couldn’t even look at him. I mean, I had never even spanked T.J. Sometimes I had to give him a time out if he got too excitable or wasn’t behaving, but I just didn’t like the idea of hitting him. “That night I put T.J. to bed a little earlier than usual. One of Timothy’s friends from overseas was coming over with his wife and I didn’t want T.J. getting excited. We all had a few drinks, Timothy seemed to drink quite a bit, but I figured he was celebrating his homecoming. After they left, Timothy poured himself another drink. I was clearing off the glasses and plates from the coffee table and he pulled me down onto his lap. “‘Leave all that for the morning.’ He started running his face over my hair and the back of my neck, knocking some of his drink onto the sofa. ‘I think it’s time you welcomed me home in a proper way.’ “I kissed him back a little, but it had been so long since I had been touched, I just needed a little time to get used to it again. I pulled away and started taking the glasses off the table. ‘Let me just get these. I don’t want them in here in the morning if T.J. wakes up first.’ “‘Don’t you worry about him. He’ll be fine.’ He pulled me back toward the sofa and one of the glasses slipped out of my hand and broke on the floor. “‘Honey, you’ll wake him up.’ I was starting to pick up the broken pieces of glass when I heard T.J. crying in his bedroom. ‘Let me just go see him.’ I headed into the kitchen to throw out the glass. “‘Let that boy be. He’s old enough to fall asleep on his own.’ Timothy got up from the sofa and put his arms around me as I came out of the kitchen, but it was like he wasn’t sure if he was going to kiss me or try to stop me. “‘What are you doing?’ T.J. was standing in the hallway in his pajamas. “‘That’s a good question for you, mister.’ Timothy turned on him, still holding me back. ‘I believe you’re supposed to be in bed.
Now get on back in there.’ “‘What are you doing?’ T.J. just repeated it, like he hadn’t heard Timothy. “‘Daddy and I are just cleaning up. Come on, I’ll take you back to bed.’ I pulled out of Timothy’s arms and took T.J.’s hand. ‘I’ll just be a minute, honey. Why don’t you go on into bed. I’ll be right there.’ “I took T.J. into his bedroom and held his hand until he fell back asleep. Then I sat there for a while just holding his hand and listening to him breathing, slow and steady. I thought Timothy might be asleep when I went into our bedroom, but he was awake and waiting to finish up what he had started in the living room. He was, well, he was kind of rough with me. Like he was angry and having a fight with me somehow, but he barely made a sound. I remember thinking for some reason that he didn’t want to wake T.J.” Janey stopped there and stared straight ahead. The light from the bulb hanging over the table made the bruise on her eyes look a ghastly shade of purple and green. She looked me in the eye and smiled. Smiled. The jagged cut on her lip looked like it might open up again. “That was different,” she said. “In case you were wondering. Something had changed in him. I couldn’t say what exactly, but sometimes it seemed like everything about him was different. Timothy just seemed awfully impatient all the time. I hadn’t noticed that in him before. And I started noticing a lot of new ways he was behaving. New phrases he used that I didn’t really understand and a change in his attitude. He was drinking a lot, and he hadn’t really done that before either. It was clear he was the man of the house again now, but he changed the whole routine T.J. and I had. He seemed upset if I spent too much time with T.J., but he didn’t really seem to have much interest in the two of them doing anything together. Neither did T.J. for that matter, they treated each other like strangers. T.J. hadn’t said anything again about Timothy not being his father. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I know it sounds crazy, like a movie or something, but I started to wonder who he really was. For the first few days – oh, it’s crazy – but, I had this idea that maybe Timothy had really been killed in the war and one of his buddies had taken his place, taken on a better life. I’d find myself watching him when he wasn’t looking, trying to
remember what he had been like before. “We ended up not going away for our anniversary. Momma came down with shingles and since T.J. hadn’t had chicken pox, we couldn’t let him go down there. Timothy was so angry, cursing about ‘that old woman’ and carrying on that I did my best to steer clear of him. Well, of course Timothy and T.J. got into it. “It was Sunday afternoon. Timothy hadn’t been home but a week and half or so, but when I think of it now it seems like it had been a lot longer. He was on leave since we were supposed to go away and he had started drinking early. It must have been the drinking. That’s all I can think. He wouldn’t have acted that way otherwise. First, he and T.J. started arguing because T.J. usually watched cartoons, but Timothy wanted to see the baseball game. I took T.J. into his room and tried reading to him, but he wouldn’t sit for it. Of course it was pouring outside, so I couldn’t take him out to play or anything. We started playing cards in the dining room. Now usually T.J. is so quiet, but that day he was just laughing and screaming as loud as he could. I could hear Timothy grumbling from across the room where he was sitting over on the sofa by the TV. I tried quieting T.J., but he only got louder. “‘T.J., honey, you have to calm down. Your Daddy wants to relax,’ I told him, but he just seemed to get more excited. “‘Goddamnit, you two wanna hold it down in there? I can’t hear myself think,’ Timothy shouted over the sound of the announcer. He didn’t even look over at us, but I could feel how angry he was from across the room. Well, that just seemed to egg T.J. on. I laid down an Old Maid from the cards and he squealed with excitement. “‘That’s it!’ Timothy moved so fast I don’t even remember seeing him come across the room. Suddenly he swept T.J. out of the chair and was carrying him upside down into his bedroom. T.J.’s head hit his chair, knocking it over and he was screaming in terror. I got up to try to stop them, but I stumbled and tripped over the chair. By the time I got up from the floor Timothy had come out and slammed the door behind him. “‘Don’t you even think of going in there.’ He stood in front of the bedroom, holding the door handle behind him. ‘That goddamn kid’s gonna learn who’s in charge around here.’
“‘Timothy, he’s a baby.’ I tried to push past him, but he stopped me and shoved me up against the wall in the hallway. “‘He’s old enough to start learning some respect. You let him be. He can just stay in there until he figures out what’s what.’ He pulled me by the arm back into the living room and sat me down on the sofa. Then he went into the kitchen and came back out with another bottle of beer. He sat down in his chair in front of the TV and went back to watching the game, as if I wasn’t there. I could hear T.J. sobbing in his room, but Timothy just turned the sound up on the TV and sat there drinking his beer like nothing had happened. “Timothy was sitting at least five feet away from me, but it still felt like he was holding my arm, pushing me down onto the sofa. The inning must have ended, I remember seeing some of the players run towards the stand and then some commercials came on. T.J. had slowly stopped crying, but he must have been kicking the wall or hitting something. There was a steady banging sound that kept coming through the wall. But Timothy just sat there like a statue, only moving his arm to lift his beer and then rest it on his knee. I don’t how long we sat there, but suddenly I realized he had been talking to me. “‘What? I’m sorry, baby. What did you say?’ I sat up on the sofa. “‘I said, maybe you oughta make some lunch.’ He was still staring at the TV. I got up and started toward the kitchen. As I passed him he reached up and took my hand. I started to pull it away, but he only caressed it for a moment and then let it go. “In the kitchen the banging sound seemed louder, but I thought it was only because I wasn’t right near the TV. I was putting some sandwiches together when there was a crash from T.J.’s room and I heard Timothy curse and get up in the living room. I wasn’t even out of the kitchen when I heard the screams and shouting from T.J.’s room. I got to the door and I could barely believe what I was seeing. Timothy was actually kicking T.J. His bookshelf had been knocked over and he was lying on the floor in a pile of books. I ran into the room and pulled them apart screaming for Timothy to stop. “‘Yeah, that’s it. Take his side. Go ahead.’ Timothy was back against the wall waving his arms at us. ‘You been doing that ever since I came home. That’s fine. You two need to stick together. You can
just stay in here all goddamn day.’ “As he slammed the door to T.J.’s bedroom behind him I took T.J. up off the floor and lay with him on his bed. He was crying and I kept trying to soothe him. ‘It’s ok, baby,’ I told him. ‘It’s ok. He’s not himself that’s all. Don’t you worry about it. He just doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ “‘I know, Mommy.’ He was red in the face from crying, his eyes all swollen. ‘I know. It’s not Daddy. It’s not Daddy.’” Janey was silent for a minute. She had been staring at the grey wall of the visitor’s room as she told me all this, but now she looked up and caught my eye directly. I looked away, reaching down to get a tissue from my purse before I remembered that they had confiscated it at the front desk. I couldn’t look her in the eye. I could hardly even listen. “We stayed there in his room, afraid to go out into the living room. Finally, I fell asleep with T.J. I don’t know how long I was asleep, but when I woke up it was dark and I started to feel a little panicky. You know how it is when you suddenly wake up and you don’t even know if its morning or night or what time it is? I was so confused. Then a car drove up and parked right outside and for a moment I could see T.J.’s face in the light. He had a terrible bruise on his face, right where Timothy had hit him. And suddenly, I remembered everything. And I knew that it wasn’t Timothy, it just couldn’t be.” “‘T.J.’ I shook him. ‘T.J. Wake up. Shh. Wake up, honey.’ “‘Mommy?’ He rubbed his eyes. ‘Where is he?’ “‘I think Daddy’s asleep. I want you to stay right here.’ “‘It’s not Daddy. I know it. He’s not my Daddy.’ “‘Shh. Shh, baby. It’s gonna be okay,’ I stroked his hair trying to calm him down. ‘I want you to stay right here. No matter what, stay right here. Promise me.’ “‘I promise, Mommy. I promise.’ “I went out and closed the door behind me. I stood in the darkness in the hallway and listened for Timothy. It was dead quiet and I thought I heard someone out in the living room, but I realized it was just the wind blowing the blinds against the pane. I just stayed still and quiet and finally I could hear his breathing from our bedroom. I tiptoed down the hall as quietly as I could. At one point the floor creaked and
I was so scared he’d hear me and wake up. He was there, lying on my bed, still in his clothes. He even had his boots on. Like he had just laid down drunk and passed out. Someone coming up the stairwell outside starting hollering and Timothy coughed and turned over in his sleep. I thought for sure he’d wake up and see me, but he just coughed again and went back to snoring. I backed up out of the room and tiptoed into the kitchen. I thought, ‘I’ll just get something for T.J and me to eat and then we’ll sleep in his room and it’ll all be better in the morning.’ That’s all, I was just going to get something to eat. And then I saw the refrigerator. I was just going to get something to eat, but the refrigerator… It… the pictures. All of the pictures. They had been pulled off the refrigerator and torn into pieces. I kneeled down and started to pick them up from the floor. I remember the light from the street lamp outside was shining in the window and I could see that each picture had been ripped apart along the image of T.J. Tiny bits of his face and body scattered all over the floor. I stood up and the pieces of picture slipped through my fingers back onto the floor. I opened the drawer where I kept the kitchen knives and took out the carving knife. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I remember now that it had our initials on the handle. They all did. Some of my girlfriends had given them to us as a wedding gift. I didn’t really notice much of anything, it just seemed to make sense to take the knife with me. I went back to the bedroom just to make sure Timothy was still sleeping, but I banged against the door in the dark and the sound of it hitting the wall must have woken him up. I think that’s when I stabbed him. The first time at least. He says he was asleep, but I’m sure he had woken up. Otherwise, why would I have stabbed him? Things started to move so slow, but I don’t remember exactly. I just remember Timothy hitting me and hitting me and then someone banging on the front door. Then the MPs were there and Timothy was on the floor, bleeding.” Janey’s voice was husky and hoarse by this time. The sound of it hung in the air, drifting around the room like the smoke from a cigarette. Why, it almost seemed like she was still talking even though she wasn’t saying any more. It wasn’t just what she had said, but the dead way she had described these horrible, horrible things that seemed to make her words float through the room. “Janey,” I said. “If you were protecting T.J. they’ll have to let
you go. They’ll just have to.” “That’s the problem. They don’t really see it that way. At first it seemed like they did. I told them how he had beaten T.J. and they saw the marks and bruises. Then the lawyer they assigned me told me they were releasing Timothy. They said the evidence didn’t support my statement.” She had been looking down, pulling at the skin around one of her fingernails as she said all this, but then she stopped and stared at the wall behind me. “You see, they found some of the pictures in T.J.’s room. “Pictures?” “Pieces of them. A couple of pieces of the snapshots of T.J. and me. In his bed. Tangled in the sheets.” “I don’t… I don’t understand.” “Pieces of the pictures from the refrigerator. Torn in half. In T.J.’s bed.” “I understand that. I heard what you said. I don’t understand how they could get there. Why would Timothy have done that?” “Timothy didn’t tear the pictures. They couldn’t find his fingerprints on any of them. Only mine and T.J.’s. Don’t you see?” Janey was gripping the table, holding it so tightly it was shaking under her hands. “Don’t you see? It was T.J. T.J. did it while I was sleeping. He waited until Timothy had passed out. He planned all this. Don’t you see? He planned it from the start!” “Janey! He’s a five-year-old boy. Five! A five-year-old doesn’t plan something like this. He couldn’t do that. He just couldn’t.” “I can’t tell them. You’re the only one I’ve told. I just can’t tell them.” “Janey, let me speak to your lawyer. None of this makes sense. You’re just not thinking straight.” “No.” She reached across the table and grabbed my hand. “No. You can’t. You can’t tell anyone about this. They’ll hurt T.J.” “Janey, I would never dream of hurting T.J.” My hand began to throb from her grip on it. I slid it out of her hand and did my best to lay it gently on hers. “But, Janey, you need help. You can’t let them keep you like this. Or, heaven forbid, try you in court when you’re not thinking straight. You have to tell your lawyer what you think happened.”
I heard a knock at the door and the sound of the key turning, then the door swung open and the guard stepped in. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry, ma’am. But time’s up.” I don’t know that I would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself, but before the door had even fully opened Janey had composed herself. Her hands were back in her lap and she seemed like the halfdead woman who had hobbled into the room earlier. She waited until the guard had come beside her then she stood up and began to shuffle out of the room. As she reached the door she turned back to me and raised her head. “Thank you for visiting. I know you’ll do what I ask.” Then her whole body seemed to sink into itself and the guard led her out of the room. The door clanged shut behind them and I was left alone. There weren’t any windows in the room and I wasn’t even sure what time it could have been, but I was certain that when I went outside it would be dusk. That strange time when you know the day’s over but the night hasn’t quite come yet. I stood up and suddenly realized how exhausted I was. It seemed like I had been sitting in that chair for hours. I couldn’t think of anything but going home and having a long bath. Then I heard the door open again and this time there was a young female officer at the door. “Hello,” she smiled at me. “I’m here to show you out. We’ll get you back your things at the front desk and sign you out if you’re ready.” “Yes, I certainly am. Thank you.” I looked around the room for my bag, forgetting again that I didn’t have it. It’s a reflex, I suppose. “How was your visit? These things can be so upsetting sometimes.” She reached her hand to me to lead me out. It was odd, I remember, but I held back a moment. There was just something in her manner I didn’t really trust. Everyone else there had been so off-hand and formal with me and suddenly here was a friendly, smiling face. “Yes,” I said, as we left the room. “I suppose they can be.” “The poor thing. I’ve been doing my best to help her. We don’t get many women in here and they’re not really set up for it. They’ll be
moving her soon though. How did she seem to you?” She was leading me back along a long, grey hallway that I hadn’t remembered from before. “Well, I suppose under the circumstances, she’s what I would expect.” I had the strangest desire to blurt everything out, but I just knew that somehow this woman was waiting for that. “The poor boy,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s terrible for him. I saw him just yesterday. He was here with an officer from the social services. They had hoped to keep him for a little while longer and let him get settled, but it looks like his father is insisting he be released into his custody.” She had been walking on ahead of me, but she stopped as she said this. The hallway seemed to stretch out far beyond her, narrowing down into a tiny little door at the end. “It was the oddest thing. He seemed almost not to understand. He kept insisting that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Absolutely insisting that he was to be with the mother. He said that wasn’t the plan.” That cold, heavy hand I had felt earlier laid itself back on my chest and I had to lean against one of the walls simply to catch my breath. “What?” I raised my hand to my throat. The words seemed stuck there. “What did you say?” “He said,” she stood very still and looked me over, an understanding smile frozen on her face. “‘That wasn’t the plan.’ I was there myself and heard it. Isn’t that odd? That poor little boy. He must have been terribly confused. Don’t you think?” She laid her hand gently on my shoulder. Smiling at me–except for her eyes, they weren’t smiling at all. “I… I don’t. Yes. It’s all so terrible.” “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you come with me?” She led me almost tenderly, steering me down the hallway towards the door, the tiny door at the end of the long, grey hallway. Her voice seemed so soft and calming, like a gentle wave soothing me. “We’ll get you some tea. Maybe even a drink if you like. I’m sure we have something here. You can relax. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Just relax. Then maybe you can tell your story to one of the C.O.s in his office. It’s just here down the hall. Just a little chat. Just the two of you.”
Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
The Queer Kiss I can get h im er A lone, in M y arms;
TWO gether WITH a
T hen maybe s H eâ€™d s EE
Cajetan’s Lady “La suerte es loca, le toca a cualquiera” – Old Spanish proverb “Luck is crazy, it touches anyone” Luck spins and spins Whirling like a Dervish Like mother Earth Frantically searching for God Stopping only to Rub up against strangers Bless them in strange tongues Before wandering off She is bronze Gold Pewter Anything heavy Metallic Tasting of blood and sin Stumbling wildly Until collapsing where she pleases Against some man or woman She’s chosen to take to bed Whispering Leaving lipstick stains On their burning skin “One night with me Will change your luck” Ella es loca – She’s crazy Manic Tempestuous
A woman like the weather A woman like God Laughing when you make plans Le toca a cualquiera She touches whomever she pleases Lacking both Rhyme and Reason Operating outside of logic As you and I see it A manic mother Mary Wild-eyed With hair like a bird’s nest Falling softly Against those whom Fate has put in her path Fortune favors the bold But Luck has no such compulsions She invites Torments “I’m just one more Spin-roll-hand Away” But remember her disclaimer Before you take her home For the night “Luck never gives, she only lends”
Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
The Highway Canyon Julie Morse
Swimming with your eyes open is bound to give you cancer. That’s what I thought the night I jumped into the Gil River Reservoir. It was what my grandmother Adele told me on my trip to Florida the last time I saw her. She was shriveled up in a beach chair, a tanning reflector looped 180 degrees around her body. Loose and oily-skinned Adele was sucking on a Virginia Slim, muttering about how she always knew cancer would be the end. Without interrupting, I crouched underneath her chair to where her purse was, and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. To this day, not much else feels just as satisfying as when I stole from under her nose. It was just Teddy Wombat and myself the night we drove out to Northfield to go swimming. Teddy and I hadn’t been friends for that long; in fact I’m not sure if friends was what we really were. As a shortlegged girl living on the crusty edges of an old New England beach town, I’ve never had a great litter of friends to choose from. When they do come along, I’m not really sure what to make of them. I met Teddy the week before, while I was driving a cab on Commercial Street. Over the rims of my rear-view mirror glasses, I could see his curly brown hair shaking in the wind. He was belting out a Motown song, but I
couldn’t place which one. “You need a lift?” I shouted from the curb, and he scrambled towards me. “Cape Cod Hospital,” he said. It was an hour to the hospital, and we both remained silent the entire way there. Through the mirrors in my sunglasses, I watched him nervously tie his curls into knots, so that by the time we had arrived at the hospital, there were a thousand little brown bead-like knots on his head. I turned to Teddy; he glared back at me with gloomy eyes. I glanced at the meter that read $72.50, and before I even had a chance to hit the “BILL” button, he split. “Hey, wait–” I shouted. A few seconds later, he came around to my side, and opened the door. I took a moment to size him up. The pale mess that he was, picking at his fingers, fidgeting with his knots, and his bottom lip straining to quiver. “Can you come with me?” he blurted out like an Archie character. I pulled my sunglasses over my forehead and turned off the ignition. I knew that leaving the cab was the wrong thing to do. But this rumpled freak was quaking with enough anxiety to fuel a steal turbine. It was my first time in a hospital. There are several stages of life that really demonstrate a person’s decorum, and visiting someone in the hospital is certainly one of them. However, that’s not to say that my existence has been completely void of pivotal rites of passage. In my two decades here on earth, I’ve witnessed the passing of eight ferrets and one grandmother. I read in my little brother’s Maxim that every soldier in Desert Storm witnessed an average of ten deaths. That’s only one more than myself. If I’m lucky, Teddy could lead me to my tenth, and then there would be little to nothing standing between the stateliness of a Desert Storm veteran and myself. Inside was a squall of icy air, and the ceiling was white like the clouds on the White Mountains. Which was where I went two years ago to get my last Girl Scout Gold badge. I lead my troupe for three days up the mountain with a compass and peppermint Chapstick. Teddy walked over to the corridor of elevators and pressed every “up” button. His breathing sounded like an air conditioner that has too much water. Then my boss Hector’s voice started to vibrate the walkie-talkie in my back pocket. I quickly turned the switch to “talk.”
“There’s a lot of traffic on route six, Hector. I don’t know how long I’m going to be exactly,” I said into the walkie-talkie. “If you can’t come, it’s okay,” Teddy said. I smiled at him and told him it’s fine. Traffic’s always an easy excuse to buy myself a few free hours. Usually I only use it when a new Freddy Kruger movie comes out, and I want to get the early bird discount. It was a gnawingly silent wait for the elevator. In my high school psychology class I learned that awkward silence means that at least one person has a lack of confidence. In this class we would have to read stories about people with names like “Diane” or “Kenneth” and then label them with adjectives like “aggressive,” “suppressed” or “neither”. It was comforting to label a person’s entire emotional criterion with a single word. Teddy was probably someone that my psychology teacher would call “pluralistic.” Teddy mentioned that he was from the canyons. I didn’t bother to ask which ones, because it felt like one of those things that I was supposed to already know. The truth is I don’t really care what canyons he came from. My summer has been so dry of social opportunities that I’ll take whatever I can get. Driving a cab ten hours a day means sitting on the leather bench seat in the sweltering heat that always leaves a hefty sweat stain on the back of my shorts. It’s usually so blatant that walking around town during lunch only results in shameful stares from people who didn’t like me in high school. So to save myself from embarrassment, I always go to the McDonald’s drive-thru for lunch, and eat in the cab, while listening to WOMR 92.1, Provincetown’s radio station, and the only station that comes in on my receiver. Teddy and I took the elevator to the third floor and entered a waiting room littered with hand sanitizer bottles. I started to sanitize my hands and Teddy followed. We sat down in big plush pleather chairs. Time passed quickly while I watched Teddy struggle to untie his now matted hair. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but instead he softly sang the Motown song he was singing before. It was a golden opportunity. “What song is that?” I asked. “‘The Tracks of the Tears of a Clown.’” And he kept on singing. “I don’t think that’s it. I think that it’s just ‘The Tracks of My Tears.’” He shot me the look people give when they find a cold pep-
peroni on their pizza. “Who are we here for?” I finally asked. “My brothers,” he said. “How many brothers?” “Two. They’re conjoined,” he said. “What?” I bursted. “They’re Siamese twins, and today they’re splitting them apart,” he said. “Really?” I asked hesitantly. “No. It’s my cousin, he had a stroke,” he said. When people talk about death, my mind swells like a prune in hot water. In the twelfth grade, kids called me “Ice Queen.” It was because when Arnold Crowther never came back from Iraq, I didn’t cry. The day we found out, the whole school blubbered together in the gym at morning assembly, except for me. I tried, but empathy is a quality that I’ve never been able to swallow. While bad news shakes most people, it only breezes through my hair. However, there was something about Teddy’s taciturn and rigid demeanor that churned my breath to the back of my throat. “I wish that the doctors would hurry up and tell me what’s going on.” Teddy said. “How long has your cousin been here?” I asked. “Just since yesterday.” “What about his parents?” “They’re not here.” It was then that the waiting room phone rang and the doctor said we could come in. After putting on more sanitizer, we watched through the small sliver of uncovered glass by the curtain. We stayed there watching the entire night. I dozed off at around 3am, and I woke up several hours later in the waiting room. Teddy was curled on the floor like one of my old lazy ferrets. I prodded his foot around a little bit. He looked up at me with bloodshot eyes, and a nose wetter than a dog’s. I gave him my hand and pulled him up off the floor, then we headed for the elevators. My cab was still in the taxi stand, and we jumped in. It was boiling out, and we were both sweating a little; there were tiny droplets in between our eyebrows. His were sliding off the bridge of his nose, and I wasn’t sure if they were tears. I turned on the radio; it was Saturday, so opera was playing. It
was the second half of “Turandot.’ Teddy raked a tiny comb through his hair, while I softly hummed “Principessa di Morti.” The car ride back to town seemed much shorter than the ride to the hospital. “Just drop me off on Commercial. I’m just on the corner of Cook and Bradford,” Teddy said, once we got off Route Six. “It’s not a problem, I can bring you to your house.” “But Commercial’s a one-way.” “I can do it. Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Thanks.” He smiled at me. His teeth were crooked in a way that an actor’s teeth are crooked, with character. We rolled up to Cook Street. He lived in one of those hotel-apartment complexes, with big French doors leading into the foyer. “My cousin lived on the first floor, and I’m on the second.” He said, and I politely put the car in park. “What time do you get off work on Friday?” “Midnight.” I said. “That’s fine. Do you think we could do something afterwards? Can you come pick me up here after work?” “Sure, let’s do something. See you later,” I said, and he opened the door and walked away. That Friday, I parked and waited outside Teddy’s apartment. He came out carrying an armful of towels. “Let’s take I-91,” he said. We drove for a couple hours. I went just under the speed limit, because even under the haze of my headlights, I like looking at the highway’s solid rock landscape. It reminds me of my Girl Scout days at the White Mountains. We turned off an exit for Route Two, and Teddy guided us to a single lane road. “Pull over anywhere,” he said. We walked down a gravel path, which turned into a lake with billowing pines hovering around the perimeter. Teddy tore off his clothes, and without giving me a moment to catch a glance at his nakedness, he cannonballed into the water. Before Teddy surfaced, I didn’t really know the truth about misery. What I learned from him is that swimming at night is just the backwards sensation of what people feel when someone dies.
Unopened 25 sets of McCall’s recipe cards. Unopened. She tells me how she saved up to buy them, and at 99 cents a set, that was hard. I can have the box, too, if I want it, although it’s being used for something else now. I’m curious to know what’s in them, Flashback to childhood dinners made with Minute Rice, canned Le Sueur peas and Campbell’s Cream of ____ soup. Convenience foods and casseroles not yet Hamburger Helper were all the rage just then. It seems like such a waste. All there: soups, salads, main dishes, desserts. I ask her why she didn’t open them. She wanted them so much. And I know it’s in the mystery of their pristine, perfectly wrapped condition. A goal achieved. Something about possessing the cherished, unmarred cards but not in their use. I know because I can’t open them either.
Mariette K. Kalinowski My squad drove ahead of the main body of a convoy heading to Al Asad, scouting for threats and moving civilian traffic to the shoulder of the road. Rolling briskly down the hardball of the highway, the wind struck my face and tried to push my head backwards with its force. The season had started to change a few weeks earlier, bringing a sharp chill and the promise of the rainy season. About the same time, many of the Iraqi men who worked on the base at odd jobs or in the chow halls disappeared, suddenly replaced by new faces. Our â€˜terp said the men whose families owned farmland in the area demanded that they return for planting season, and that they would be back on base once the crops were harvested. Above me, the sky was filled with fast moving grey clouds broken by flashes of blue and below it the desert reflected the dappled light and shadow; clouds flowing, a river in the sky, going and going without me. I wished desperately that the clouds wouldnâ€™t gather, because rain would suck. We still had about four more hours on the road, before we would reach Al Asad, and I was not looking forward to it. Convoys are long and boring with the same landscape and terrain flying past you at
40mph. A person could easily zone out and lose focus of the mission: staying alive. Despite the cold wind rushing down my neck, I felt a dull ache grow behind my eyes and knew I was getting tired. The bland landscape, the routine of the convoy, the bright glare of the sun were building until my body wanted to give in to the fatigue; I had to keep myself awake. I fished around in my cargo pocket for my cigarettes and crouched out of the wind to light one. I took a long, hard pull, felt the nicotine high punch through the fatigue and blossom throughout my skull. Nicotine and caffeine were the only sure things in this place; I couldn’t even count on a real night’s sleep anymore. I had only been in the country for about two months, but already the days were blending into a haze of chow hall meals, convoys, chain-smoked Marlboros and can after can of Red Bull. Some days, the missions got to be so long and fucked up that all we could do was jack ourselves up on sugar, caffeine, and nicotine just to stay conscious. “Hey, Sheppherd,” Osmanski’s voice came through my earpiece. “How you doing back there?” “I’m hanging in there,” I replied. “You catch anything, yet?” “Nope, things are good, so far.” I turned to look at Osmanski, who stood in the turret of truck one. I knew that he was looking down the front of his humvee and at the approaching road, watching for anything unnatural that might be dangerous or threatening. A patch of sand newly dug out and re-covered, a glint of metal placed where a wheel might roll over it, a pile of rocks that could be used to time our approach to a bomb. I turned my head back to our flanks, traced a lazy path around the emptiness of the desert with my eyes; if Osmanski was making sure we didn’t blow up, I made sure we didn’t get ambushed. The expanse of the Iraqi desert undulated with a flowing silhouette that suggested ocean waves. When the sunlight hit the surface just right, the coarse sand and large, clumpy rocks created the eerie feeling of being on a foreign planet. Shadows elongated and shrank and wheeled under the rising sun and created features that appeared and then disappeared in less than an hour. Distances were tricky, because there were few distinguishing landmarks. On a clear, brisk day a person could see clearly at least a few kilometers, but on a close and cloudy day you might not see more than several dozen yards. One
moment a person might be negotiating a tricky berm and the next overlooking a village that couldâ€™ve risen out of the ground. The light was always shifting in the desert, and it became hard to trust what your eyes were telling you. Below me, the grey of the hardball and the dun brown of the sand flew by in a blur. Large cracks and blemishes appeared in the concrete where insurgents hacked away at it to lay IEDs and booby traps. Occasionally, my driver would brake and navigate around craters with jagged lips where bombs had exploded. The terrain slipped past me in a blur of greys and browns and yellows, the rapidly rising sun throwing the shadow of the truck behind us. I shut first one eye, and then the other, so that the blur became a smooth procession of rocks and stinted shrubs, of wheel carcasses and trash and discarded water bottles. I opened my eye again to the rolling blur. Perspective, focus, refocus. Everything in the desert was defined by what you saw, never what you knew. A truth could be undone in the span of a heartbeat; concrete fact shattered by the contraction of muscles in a thumb and the expansion of heat and flame. Fear, anxiety, worryâ€”they radiated out of the parched ground like the heat that was slowly retreating into the winter. An errant gust of wind kicked sand into my face, the grains scouring against my skin. The pitch of the truck engine shifted down and I felt the vibrations of the truck ease through my legs. We followed truck one as they moved closer to an intersection. I scanned the overpass, feeling the usual tingle of anticipation along the back of my neck. The far side of the overpass always worried me the most, because there was no clear sight of it from the approach side. A hajji could be standing on the other side ready to fuck us up. Beyond the overpass there was a fork in the highways with a gas station nestled between them. Trucks packed the open lot in front of the building with men of all ages mingling around and smoking, talking, looking at us. I looked back. It seemed like a typical afternoon for these men who were waiting to see how the weather would turn. The cloth of their robes and the smoke from their cigarettes moved with the wind as they turned their round faces in our direction. I watched and waited for some kind of movement or gesture that was threatening, something that would make one of them stand out from the others, but none of the men seemed nervous or suspicious;
they were just taking a break from the road and the boredom of driving for hours at a time. Their brown skin, brown eyes, and dark hair melted into the brown of the building behind them and into the desert that surrounded us all. We punched the accelerator and blew past the remaining trucks. Not far ahead was another intersection, a four-way crossing with a nearby farmhouse. We barely started moving when I was thrown forward in the turret and a sharp pain exploded through my hip where it struck the steel rim. I keyed my mic, “What the fuck, Ski?” “I think we got a possible IED,” Osmanski said; he was leaning out of his turret and looking hard at a patch of rough dirt that appeared to be freshly shoveled. “Looks like there are some wires here. I’m gonna radio it in.” “Roger,” I said. Behind us men gathered along the bumpers of their trucks. Some reached their heads out to catch a furtive glance while others stood about and openly watched us. “We’ve got groupies, Ski.” “What, the truckers? They didn’t put this out; let me know when something important happens.” The sun rose higher and the clouds scuttled quickly across the sky. Sunlight winked off windshields in the convoy. There was another flash of sunlight, closer and brighter. A small white Opel sedan with more rust than paint and a missing hubcap approached fast from our left. “Ski, vic on your nine; it’s coming quick.” He spun to face the vehicle, a bright orange flag in his hand. Maybe the driver didn’t see Osmanski flag him to stop, or maybe didn’t know what it meant, but either way he didn’t slow down or stop. The Opel was now only a couple of hundred meters away. Pop, pop, pop. Ski shot three tracer rounds across the nose of the car, the bright red bullets lengthening into morse code dashes: da, da, da. Dust and sand rose into the air from beneath car tires as the driver cut across to the intersection and drove away from us. The dust cloud drifted across the road and the buzz of the Opel’s muffler drifted away from us. “Hey dumbass,” Osmanski said roughly. “Look alive, will ya? Punch ahead to the other side of the intersection and post security. We
still got this IED to take care of.” The Opel’s skid marks slid past and away from me, becoming a dusty wake in the huge and open desert ocean. The sun had already climbed high in the sky until the shadow of everything shrank into thin little pools of black. Time coming and time going were present at the same moment in this place where every object was a crude sundial—time approaching and time retreating into the days and weeks and months of my deployment. Two months down in Iraq, four months and three days left to go, which really could be nineteen weeks and three days, or 4,704 hours, but all the numbers were depressing anyway. No matter how you spin the time that is behind you and the time that is in front of you the only solution is the fact that you are here and now, and nowhere else. Two months ago, I was in California and trying hard not to think about getting shipped off to Iraq. I loved being stationed in California; Camp Pendleton was huge with rolling mountains and wide prairies that were so completely different from the urban chaos of New York that I was immediately enraptured by it. The weather was consistently beautiful; when storms did come through the rain would fall in hard torrents that would bring the hills down with it in fast murky flows, and be done in half a day. The long stretches of time between storms meant huge skies that were somehow bluer on the west coast, a brighter sun, puffier clouds. The beaches were bigger, the girls sexier in a celebrity, sunkissed kind of way that was worlds apart from the seasonal demands of East Coast fashion. Simply put, Pendleton was not Brooklyn. I spread my wings in California: bought myself a car, decked myself out in all the latest west coast styles, drank my ass silly any moment I wasn’t training or working, chased after girls. All day long my platoon would train in the foothills of Camp Pendleton, our sweat slicking our skin and getting caked with the fine grey dust picked up by the Pacific wind. We ran mock convoys, staged fake ambushes on enemy strongholds, practiced with grenades and rocket launchers, kicked down doors to rush at pop up targets. But all the while in the back of our minds was the final muster and dismissal; the only normal thing that fit itself into our brains among all the myriad of strategies, methods, safety procedures, battlefield theory, and the raw primal drive to survive was the thought of being on a beach for a
few hours doing jack shit. All any of us wanted in those days was some time where we didn’t have to run in helmets and full gear and stare down the barrel of a weapon, where every statement didn’t have to be preceded by rank and every acknowledgment followed with “Sir,” a place where the only important thing was agreeing on which bar we would drink at. Standing in the turret of a humvee and working with my M240G, I would feel the sun beating down on my neck and hands and think of how the same heat felt on my exposed torso. About five minutes outside of the main gate of the base was a sorry little beach town called Oceanside. The kind of town that pops up near every military base in the world, the kind of town where every other store is a liquor shop or a strip club, the bars and restaurants were only so-so but cheap and good for business with the Jarheads, and were filled with girls looking to hook themselves a military man. On the beach the girls would stand around in their bikinis and designer sunglasses with their hips cocked and shoulders thrown back, knowing that we watched them, but they watched us too. There would be a flash of eyes or a casual turn of the head as we passed and these beautiful girls took in our buzz cuts and tattoos, our swagger and odd tan lines, and immediately knew we were Marines. We liked the attention, we relished it. One of the guys broke out a football and we claimed a patch of sand to play a game. There was a long pass, a high and spiraling arc and I ran to catch it. My fingertips barely brushed the skin of the football when my feet slipped and I tumbled into a heap. From somewhere there came a high pitched shriek. Turning my head, I saw a round face with almond-shaped eyes the color of charcoal, silky black hair that brushed the towel spread beneath her golden brown skin. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” There was a musical Spanish lilt to her words, a curling of her upper lip as she cursed at me. “Sorry, sorry,” I leapt to my feet. “I was just playing football. I guess I wasn’t looking.” “Well, make sure next time you do,” she sighed in a short staccato burst, made to replace her chin on her arms. I finally got a good look at her tiny, curved body, the exposed breadth of her shoulders and the way her spine traced the length of her torso down into her buttocks,
the curve of her ribcage into her hips. She was topless, the strings of her bikini discarded to the side of her so she wouldn’t get unsightly tan lines. I saw individual grains of the sand I spilled on her skin and the way they stood out white and grey and black against her skin; my eye traced the detail of the sand down onto her skin to see the tiny peach fuzz hairs that were bleached by the sun. “You from around here?” The muscles of her back shifted as she craned her head back towards me. “Why you wanna know?” I shrugged at her. She shrugged back at me, “I’m from close enough. I’m staying with some friends for a while.” I heard my buddies shout behind me, where’s the ball, fucker, and c’mon man get back to the game. “You gonna be around the beach for a while?” There was no way this girl was getting away. This time there was a hint of smirk, a tiny suggestion of a dimple on her cheek, “Yeah, I think I am.” “Jared,” I held my hand out to her, leaned a little closer to her so my shadow reached across her. She reached her own hand up to me, the lifting of her arm released her breast just enough that I could see it. “I’m Maria. Come find me later.” The beach crowd had thinned and the sun had arched a little closer to the horizon by the time I went looking for Maria. Everything took on a molten orange sheen, grew a little hazy around the edges. I found Maria sitting on the low wall by the public showers. She smiled when she saw me walking up, threw me a lazy wave. “You feel like hanging with my friends?” I sat beside Maria on the concrete ledge. Maria shrugged at the idea. “Is it someplace here in Oceanside?” “That’s the plan,” I said. “My boys and I usually head up to L.A.—” “Not L.A.,” she said curtly. I looked at her for a moment and noticed that she averted her eyes. “No worries,” I said. “We didn’t really feel like driving up there tonight, anyway. What’s wrong with L.A.?” “Oh,” she shrugged again. She shrugged at all of my questions. “I just don’t like it anymore. I guess I just got bored with it.”
I didn’t press the matter. “Well, tonight we’re just sticking around this sorry town.” I stood up to leave. “So, Jared.” She looked at me from the corner of her eye. “You’re a Marine.” This time I shrugged. “Yeah, I’ve been in for a little over a year, been here at Pendleton for a few months. I ship out in a few weeks.” “Ship out, as in going someplace else? Where’re you going?” “Iraq.” I said it simply, no explanation needed. “What will you be doing over there?” “Convoy security,” I said. “I’m a machine gunner.” Maria turned to me then, her eyes deep and direct and glowing in the retreating light. There was something knowing in that look and I was drawn to it, was pulled in even deeper when a wide smile split her face. “How do you feel about staying down here on the beach?” She asked, and laced her arm through mine. We made our way down to the water line. We took off our shoes and walked through the surf. The sun slipped so quickly into the Pacific that there was only a slice hovering above the horizon. The dying light blazed upwards in apricot and orange hues that sat along the horizon—that impossibly distant band that inspires and humbles a person all at once—with the deepening indigo showing at the zenith of the sky dome. The lights of boats skimmed along the waves, their silhouettes cutting strange lines into the colors of the sunset. We didn’t look at each other as we spoke, but at our feet or out into the water to watch the waves roll into the shore. The water folded over and over itself, rushed into shore with a pounding crash and receded with a whisper. As each wave returned to the ocean, it pulled sand out from under my feet and I sank a little with each step forward. Maria’s voice rose up to me gently, a soft melody riding the wind off the ocean, “why the Marines, Jared, why not one join one of the other branches?” “Simple, they’re the best,” I smiled at her. There was no answering smile. “But really, there was nothing better for me to do. I could’ve played college basketball; there were plenty of coaches coming to my games and asking for review tapes. All these schools were excited and wanted to pitch their program to me, but they always
changed their minds when they saw my grades.” “Why not go to community college, or something? You could’ve improved your grades, tried again.” “No money,” I said. “It was just me and mom and there was no way we could pay for school without help. And that’s why I signed up. Hopefully, when I get back to the states I can try out for the All Marine Team.” “Yeah,” Maria said, “maybe.” Maria wove her fingers through mine. I turned to her, “Why don’t you like L.A.?” She squeezed my fingers hard. “I used to roll with a gang from my neighborhood.” She had been with the gang since she was twelve. Her older brother Alamar was the one who got her into it. It wasn’t intentional, Maria rolling with the gang, it was a money thing—everything in L.A. is a money thing. There was no way for their mother to pay for a babysitter, and there was no way Alamar was going to ditch the gang to babysit Maria, so sometime when she was ten years old she started tagging along with her brother. Usually she would go to the house of Alejandro’s mother. Alejandro was the leader. He used to box and had a huge thing for Muhammad Ali, so everyone called him “Ali.” “Ali was a bad guy,” Maria said. “All he cared about was the drug and rent profit. He wasn’t into the whole turf war thing that most of the Suenos got into—those wars can consume a gang—but get in the way of his business and you’re dead.” Maria looked hard at me while she told me about Ali. Her pupils were so dark in the receding light I thought they would swallow me whole. Something rose out of the depths of Maria and shone out of those dark pupils. Whatever it was, perhaps pain, fear, or hope, had not surfaced in some time. Maria’s shoulders were tight, and she kept glancing away from me. She rubbed my hand between hers like someone trying to get warm, or maybe the washing of hands. “I don’t like L.A. anymore, ‘cause I can’t go back. I narced on Ali,” she said. “To the cops?” I asked. Maria shook her head. “To a rival gang. They had been trying to get their hands on him for a few years now ‘cause they wanted his
turf, but had no luck. I got tired of Ali and of the lifestyle and wanted to get out, so I dropped a few hints where they could find him.” She looked at me. “Alamar is the new leader and he put a price on my head.” “Holy shit.” My throat went dry. Maria shrugged and walked a few steps away. I looked back out into the ocean, grown black and frothy in the abrupt darkness, tried to make sense of what Maria told me. I remembered the first time I came to this beach; I kept thinking that I would call my mom and tell her that I swam in the Pacific Ocean. “Hey, Jared!” I turned in time to see Maria, naked and fresh, running into the surf. Her laughter took on a pitched, hysterical sound as she flailed and bobbed into the water. “Come on in, the water’s great!” I did glance around, just to make sure no one was nearby, but I shed my clothes and joined her in the ocean. As I came back to myself, reawakened in Iraq, I felt that California was farther away in my past than anything else. Maria disappeared after that night. That brief taste of her was not nearly enough of what I desired, but I had no way of finding her. I heard an odd buzz, faint and electronic-sounding. “My radio must be on the blitz again,” I muttered to myself, keying my mic a couple of times to make the sound stop. The buzz was still there and louder this time, clear enough to sound like the muffler of the Opel Ski shot up. The Opel was there on the road. The white car approached first as a white silhouette against the road and then as a distinct shape with a clear windshield and two figures in the front seat. The flag was in my hand and I was waving it up and down, the taut nylon fluttering like bird wings. The car was now close enough that I could see the two men as clearly as before. The passenger stared at me, his face full of his shocked eyes and his wide open mouth. I saw his face so clearly, saw the shock so clearly that he could have been not moving and the car could have been not moving and I could have been watching him calmly instead of sweating and thinking “what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck does he think he’s doing?” The pistol grip on my 240G felt firm and cool beneath my palm as my fingers fit around it. Sweet and familiar contact between my hand and the weapon, pressure be-
neath my index finger upon the trigger. The weapon rocked beneath my shoulder, rattled my chest with its firing. Once, twice, three times I depressed the triggers. Each time the Opel moved a little closer and the rounds impacted just a little higher into the little car. I saw the last burst impact the driver, saw his brief convulsion before the vehicle drifted to a stop on the shoulder. I couldn’t say anything; there was nothing in my brain that would have meant anything had I wanted to say something. My heart slowed in my chest; I hadn’t realized it even sped up. Everything in my mind began catching up, regaining normal speed and I felt the constriction in my lungs and in my abdomen relax, felt my shallow breaths deepen and my trembling hands steady. I felt warmth and pressure in my groin and realized I had a boner, that I got off on firing my weapon. The look of the passenger was so fresh in my mind, the quick shiver of the driver as the bullets from my machine gun hit his body. “Sheppherd, talk to me,” Osmanski said. I keyed my mic, “Shots fired. Passenger vehicle approached, disregarded signals.” I inhaled deeply, steadied my voice, “possible casualties.” “Go check it out, give me full details.” “Aye, Sergeant,” I answered. I approached the car. The passenger was on the ground beside the Opel, sitting against the side of the car and clutching at his abdomen. Blood blossomed out from beneath his fingers staining the clean front of his robe. The man muttered to himself in Arabic and moaned Allah!, Allah!, bending at the waist in a mimicry of prostration. There was a monotone buzz coming from the cab of the car—a hot round closed the circuit on an alarm and it wouldn’t shut off. I looked across the passenger seat of the car. The driver was still in his seat. I moved closer to him and smelled cordite and copper and sweat, the scents mingled and rose to me from out of the car gently like smoke. Everything in that car was heavy-lidded death, a gentle line of mouth that looked like a photograph of a man just about to slip into sleep, but really all of his blood pooled at his feet in a brown shadow and his dead rigor mortis hands clawed at a car door he would never get out of. There was so much blood in the car where the dead driver reclined and his companion wailed and that god damned door buzzer noised ceaselessly
in my brain until I thought I would go mad with the sound and the dark, congealing blood staining the back of the car seat, the grey floor mat. I shot twenty-one 7.62mm rounds into that car—twenty-one bright and beautiful 4th of July red tracers—and killed one man and wounded another. My stomach cramped and I felt bile rise in my throat but I gulped air in huge heaving gulps and I pushed the vomit down, slowed my breathing down, slowed my heartbeat down. I turned my back on the dead man. I couldn’t look at him anymore, but the sight of him filled the space behind my eyelids. The afternoon light was fluid and golden and so much like Camp Pendleton that I couldn’t help but return to the beach at Oceanside. The bright glare of the sun on the first day I went there; the night I tasted sharp salt on Maria’s skin. Standing with my feet in the rising tide, the cold water prickling my skin into goose bumps, I fell in love with California instantly; California seemed like a new beginning to me. But there was a strange quality to all of the newness, also, like a strange wave of déjà vu that threatened to knock me over into the surf. Seeing all of the vitality and brightness around me made me feel like I was somehow not new to this place. Is it possible to be familiar with nothing and everything all at once? Is it typical to sense that no matter where one goes in the world, a part of you has somehow gone before you? Fucking Iraq. I couldn’t help but think that from that moment on everything in my life would be defined by what I was sweating into my body day in and day out in the Pendleton wilderness, that everything would be judged by on target or off target, center mass or wounding shot, a body bag or one more detainee to lug around. Even then, I felt yet another feeling come over me: the sense that I was experiencing something so tangible and meaningful that my body would tear apart from the force of it. I didn’t even know how it began, what triggered it, or how to satiate and end it. Was it because I saw so much life and hope on the beach, such desire and courage? Perhaps this vitality that existed around me created an opposition to me, a juxtaposition of what awaited me in Iraq. For all the life and happiness I witnessed, I was reminded of the place I would travel to: Killing fields, a place that denies life, a place of trial and punishment for those who are foreign to it. The desert breeds a certain kind of person, and I
wondered if I would survive the transformation. Or maybe it was the simple fact that I stood in the Pacific, with its chilled saltiness rushing around my ankles and making me think of the immensity of this single ocean; the immensity of the Pacific when compared to me on its shore; the immensity of the Pacific, the frailty of me. Far off to the west the sun began to slip away from the earth where the rolling and swelling waves of the desert met the sky; the moon rose in opposition bright and clear in the evening. Full moon, pensive moon—I was filled with the vision of this, I reeled beneath the gravity of this coupling. The desert spun away and outward from me; I was the center and the source and the point of origin in this void. The desert was so huge and empty and thirsty that it demanded everything of everyone who stepped onto its soil. With the sun setting to my left and the moon rising to my right I knew that it wouldn’t matter where in the world I went, the sunset would always look the same; the setting sun would always look like it lowered above the desert floor, and would always shimmer as if reflecting its color off the shifting sand. There would be nothing left in me except that dead hajji, and that incessant, cicada-like buzz of the door alarm. Across the road, an old man stepped out of the low box of the farmhouse. He was probably drawn out by the sound of me shooting and the spectacle of the wailing man. He was a small man with a full head of bright white hair, and a weathered, wrinkled face. He wore a dark blazer that looked like it did nothing to stop the wind and the cold. He stood still as a statue, his arms held slightly away from his body, watching me with eyes squeezed tight against the glare of the sun. I watched him watch me until finally, at some cue I couldn’t hear or see, he spun on his heel flaring the hem of his robe just slightly, and stepped back into his home.
People on the train V
Confessional Parts I. “sorry father for I have sinned” 6th pew, to the right, and I saw a beautiful sight and I touched it: my fingertips danced inside the pants of an atheist. I licked lips and blessed the tip of his tongue with a salty prayer: (I yield myself to Thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will to come) I turned to Proverbs 31 (she seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands,) and Father, willingly, I do. II. I’ve turned to You. Once. But you never came through and now I’m always looking for some lower-case h in him to come. he came. III. I asked if he would enter some random church with me, and he said he’d enter me in some random church; and it’s the playing of words that makes him a beautiful flirt the way he reworked, rewired and fucked sin right back into me. Here I am, again. Twelve years later. Wandering through Hell’s Gate Kinda makes for a risky date
For I am about to test my faith in him in here. Being here makes me think about 3rd grade when I degraded the blessed hardwood chair, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel property and the nun would just stare / and wink then miraculously hand would meet ruler Now, it’s the 12 inch ruler that dictates my life: [spank] IV. My lower-case h in him I told him I’d turn him into a belief system I could fuck / and admire on the Victorian pitch pine church pew placed here by you, father. And to me, To touch him, breathe him, taste him Makes me think that this is something I can live with. The upper-case H in He is someone I can live without and without a doubt I have. I am not lost Father. I am not heartless, soulless, not brought up to praise the Lord, but to use the educational system that praises him instead. That’s the sort of system I learned nothing from. Forcing us to confess our sins at the age of 8, – only makes us think that forever we sin and If I am the culprit I’ll place hand-to-dick, place tongue to lips place these lips on his sleeve and kiss your faith goodbye. V. On this Victorian pitch pine church pew I look at you you make me instantly wet the way your lips meet neck
whispering another salty prayer fingering another faulty sinner I feel like Iâ€™ve found God for a moment or two and then I remember itâ€™s you, and God or no God, you came, He did not.
I Heard About This Thing Called ‘Finding Yourself’ But I Want Nothing To Do With It. I’m heading west because I don’t want to learn everything there is to know from someone else’s words. I’m discovering the understatement that is Utah. At night, there’s no streetlights. The moon is the only night-lite for a twenty-something-year-old child like me (still afraid of the dark). There’s something un-cliché about the way these moonbeams hit the masses of rock at night in a pull-over canyon that can’t be captured by someone else’s photograph and I’m 97% sure that this terrain speckled by the white at night was planted for pupils that look for iridescent ideologies where ideas don’t matter. Some patches have snow. Others are bare. It doesn’t matter why – happiness is different pockets of air felt with the same jeans hyphenated on the same day. Dry-fuzz Arizona. Non-jacket weather snow Colorado. It’s not a place I want to live – but not a place I want to leave. Maybe it’s the timing. Maybe I’m looking for a place where words don’t fit in. Because it’s gorgeous when stars become punctuation marks
for the prose in the sky. It’s gorgeous seeing gravity measured in bristlecone pine trees rather than the guilt of anything familiar. There’s a road sign with a silhouetted image of an elk saying next 55 miles. It can’t be a deer, the artist depiction has the antlers much too large to be deer. Either way, I haven’t seen any elk. The only thing alive right now is the shell around me. My car – it’s looking for attention from the moon. It’s seeking approval from the road. My car is just in love with the skin of the ground. We’re alone and this road hasn’t cheated on me. And this won’t be a one-night stanza. My fingertips out the window are overlooking the 5 am scent of March. This wind has no plan. I call it myself.
Dog Series 3
Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
Rises in the East
Jennifer (Jade) Yeung
Samantha Chung My dad’s apartment was on W13th St. between 5th and 6th. I remember spending a good portion of my childhood in this studio apartment. It was usually dim and a mess 90% of the time. One New Year’s Eve, we had confetti. It was just daddy and me that night watching this year depart and the next one’s arrival on television. After the ball dropped, the hugs were exchanged in a cloud of sparkles. What I don’t remember was that confetti ever being cleaned up off the ground. The studio always smelled like my dad, like clean laundry and cigarettes. I came to associate this smell with him and though I discourage the unhealthy habit, I can’t think of a scent I love more. I am six years old. I entered the apartment building with the green awning and hopped down three steps. “Hi Marty!” Marty was the doorman. My mother took my hand and we walked to the door on the left of the elevator. There wasn’t ever a point in taking the lift because daddy lived on the first floor. The staircase was a sickly pink and the only sound was that made by my little feet and my mother’s four-inch heels. It was very dimly lit and smelled uninhabited. I ran up the stairs, two at a time while my mother watched from below. I turned a right, skipping, rang the doorbell (ding dong, not buzz). I could hear him walking towards
the door. “Hello doll-link.” He had a smirk playing at the corner of his lips. The bags under his eyes, identical to mine, made him look tired. I jumped up to give him a hug. He smelled like detergent and smoke. The Simpsons were on in the background. Daddy was always sitting in his usual chair in front of the television. It was an old green Victorian style chair. It looked like it belonged in a hotel room. If the Simpsons were not on then he would probably be watching one of his extensive collection of VHS pre-recorded movies. The studio didn’t have much in it. My parents shared a bed that folded up into what appeared to be a closet. It stayed down most of the time, right next to the television. There was a couch that acted as my bed right at the foot of my parents.’ On the nights my mother and I stayed over, I fell asleep on the blue couch with diagonal yellow stripes on it. It was a slippery material and I always managed to get wedged on the side of the cushions (that is IF the cushions remained on the couch). I twist and turn a lot in my sleep. Even in our apartment in Queens, my nights were rarely ever sound. Mommy worked nights ever since we moved here from Taiwan. She needed to take me to school and pick me up in the day so she took up a bartending job. Not wanting to deal with the smoke and alcohol, mommy eventually got a graveyard shift at a graphic design company. Nights for me meant being all alone until mommy got home. That blue couch was more of a bed to me than the large queen-sized one in Queens. My father thought there was a ghost in the apartment. The lights would sometimes flicker. I used to sleep walk when I stayed over there, and only there. My dad used to tell me I would shoot straight up in the middle of the night and my eyes would be wide open and that he would have to coax me back to sleep. I didn’t believe him. That is until I woke up in the bathroom one night. Still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I realized I was staring at white linoleum tiles. I was sitting on the cold, hard toilet seat. Looking down, realizing I was completely naked, I looked for my clothes. Most of them were on top of the brown floor mat in front of the tub, except for my underwear, which I found in the garbage pail next to the sink. Bewildered and still half asleep, I collected my clothing, got dressed and took a look at myself in the mirror. My hair was, well, big. The dark circles around my eyes, my daddy’s circles, were brought into focus by the three large light fixtures on top of the mirror. They made me feel ugly. I do remember the studio being clean all of three times. These
three times daddy’s friend came over to help him clean. He had a problem, a bad habit. Mommy used to say that this is how he died, his habit. I still believe that this was the ghost in daddy’s apartment. Maybe his soul had nowhere else to go. Sometimes it would be different. The smell. Sometimes it smelled like alcohol too. On these days my mommy and daddy would argue. I would try to help. I would take the smooth glass bottle filled with the clear potion that would ruin everything and hide it in my corner. My secret refuge right behind the front door, transformed from a simple nook with a coat rack into my haven. I would hide the bottle under the coats and that way he would never find it. I figured this way, they would stop arguing and then mommy and I could move in. That way I wouldn’t have to be late for school every time I stayed over. My school was in Queens and I hated waking up extra early and always got in trouble with Ms. Kelly when I came in late. Of course, he would always find it and take it. “Please Daddy,” tears in eyes, “don’t drink it. Do it for me.” My hero could never look me in the eye when he had that cup in his hands. Mommy would yell in her broken English. She called him names. He was lazy. He was dirty. He was stupid. “You don’t love us.” It was four in the morning and mommy had just gotten home from work. Daddy was sitting in front of the television and his eyes were red. He had his cup in his hand. “Where have you been?” he asked her. “Working. Where would I be?” “Dressed like that?” He looked over her short black dress, stockings and four-inch heels. This is what set her off. She would get me out of my couch and tell me to get ready to leave. I cried out to both of them. “Mommy! It’s so late. I need to sleep. I have to go to school! Please daddy, pour it out. I don’t want to take the train all the way back home.” Daddy never said anything. He never raised his voice. I never saw him angry. He was sad. He always looked sad. He would go to the kitchen as my mom stomped to the front door, me crying in back of her. It was right next to our way out. He would go into the cupboard in the tiny kitchen and take out all the plates. SMASH. CRASH. CRUNCH. He would not make a peep but he broke every last plate. Days later, he still didn’t answer any calls. I don’t think anything hurts as much as calling someone that you know is ignoring your calls. I would listen to the ringing, and then to his voice coming up
on the voicemail, over and over again. I left a message every time. I wouldn’t see him for another week. When we went over there again, he was still sitting in his chair. The lights were off, the TV was on, and the glass was still on the floor. His eyes were still red. “How did you walk around the apartment?” My mother and I looked at him in utter shock. Mommy spent the rest of the night taking the shards of glass out of his foot while I cleaned up the mess. There was a courtyard behind the studio. It was a miniature paradise in the middle of a concrete jungle. I used to roam around and try to catch butterflies in emptied soda bottles. I never knew what to do with them when I caught them. What would I feed a butterfly? Do they drink water? I always let if free after. Something that beautiful should never be contained. There were kittens too. I really don’t know whom these cats belonged to or where they came from but they were always in the courtyard. I used to sit on the bench and play with one particular grey one. Sometimes in the middle of the night the kitties would sneak into the studio. How they got in, I will never know but I never complained. My daddy would then go on to tell me how he loved cats and when he used to own his clothing store on Orchard Street he always had a cat. Orchie, he called it. Now usually I would not call a living creature an “it” but I’m not referring to one cat. He loved Orchie very much and when one Orchie died, he would get another Orchie. They weren’t always the same gender, hence the “it.” So the cats that belonged to the green patch within the concrete jungle would make their way into my father’s carpeted studio apartment. They would jump on his desk that I seldom remember was there. It was always covered with junk and never used. I only remember the desk when my mom would be off from work and could not sleep. She moved and rearranged the position of the 400lb desk while we slept. She would wipe it clean, turn it sideways, straight, at a slant. Painstakingly, she took everything off of it, removed the drawers, and slowly found the perfect spot for it. She moved the paperweights around and also moved the granite elephant figurine from one side to another. When we woke up, the right side of the apartment looked completely different. The lights in that corner would be on and the desk would sparkle. It made me want to read. You could then walk in a straight
path to my daddy’s movie collection. Across from the obsolete desk was daddy’s favorite corner. To the left of the desk (looking in from the garden) was a bookshelf filled with hundreds of movies and also a radio and record player. While he put on Bruce Channel he would dance around, being silly, and pick a movie. When my daddy danced and sang, it was one of the very seldom times mommy smiled. She always said daddy couldn’t dance. In Taiwan, mommy studied ballroom dance and was a signed singer and performer in Asia. Daddy’s singing and dancing was as amusing to her as stand-up comedy. Most of the tapes on the shelf had several movies on them. He had movies of all genres, old to new. Some he watched once a month, others he said were only good to watch once a year. Some movies he would watch with the volume low and some movies (like the original Batman) he demanded the volume be on high. I remember the year he passed away he started recording each and every movie he watched in a little planner. “I’m going to die this year,” he would say. “My dad died when he was 42, his dad died when he was 42, and my uncle died when he was 42. I am 42.” Every single day in that planner was filled with at least two movies from the first of January until that December he passed away at the age of 42. This little book is the most cherished item I own. Daddy’s next favorite collection was his beautiful fountain pens. He would tell me about his youth and walking through the streets of New York, checking stationery stores for their new supply of fountain pens. He never used these relics. They were collection pieces. Once a year, he carefully removed them from the felted boxes they were kept in, and cleaned them. All this work just to put them away for safe keeping for one more year. He said he would give me one when I was old enough. I would whine, and he’d ask, “Why are you whining? Don’t you know that one day all of them will be yours anyway?” I wonder where they are now. It was a cold and bright day. I went to school like any other day. On my way to school that day there was a dead pigeon on the sidewalk. Now, any New Yorker will tell you that roadkill pigeons and squirrels are a disgusting but nonetheless common sight. This one was different. It was in perfect condition. It was not flattened or bent and did not have any open wounds. It looked as if it had closed its wings and lain down.
My mom was so set aback by this sight that she picked it up and examined it. It looked like a stuffed animal. I now believe that this bird was an omen. The rest of my school day was uneventful. My fourth grade art class made paper mache masks that were drying outside in the courtyard. When school was out I ran out to tell my mom about them and to point them out. She was standing there with her hands in her oversized pockets. I believe the green coat belonged to my dad. The other parents were tapping their feet, glancing at their watches, and looking out for their kids. My classmates were bouncing along, playing games with each other, or reaching in their oversized book bags to hand their parents their daily progress sheets. My mom’s eyes were glazed over. She was yellow. Her long straight black hair was tousled. Once I reached her, she said to me “San, daddy died today.” I felt the air leave my lungs and form a ball in my throat. My stomach turned against me, into a hand that seized my tongue and scratched at the back of my eyes. Why is everything so silent now? Where did everyone go? My classmate’s dad drove us home. We didn’t tell them what happened so I had the entire ride home for the news to sink in. Jackie’s dad cracked a joke. I giggled and then hated myself for it. How could I smile? Once I got home, I dropped to my knees and cried. I couldn’t understand how he could be gone. I spoke to him last night. He was at my grandmother’s house and was begging us to go over. The weekend coming up, we had a party welcoming my newborn cousin into the world. He wanted us to spend the next few days with him before the party. Mommy didn’t want to because she said grandma didn’t want us there. According to Jewish customs, the deceased needs to be buried the day after their passing. Not having anytime to process, my mom and I then trooped it to Brooklyn. Daddy’s quarters in grandma’s house was completely trashed. The night table was lying on its side in the middle of the room. The lamp was without a shade and the bed without sheets. Daddy had a seizure when no one was around. I remember crying on the steps in front of his bedroom with my cousin. I don’t know how long we sat there, holding each other, crying.
I saw daddy the next day. Mommy was inconsolable. She demanded to see him. Not accepting that he was dead, she would not let him be put in the ground until she was sure. After arguing with everyone for hours, we were finally allowed to go to the funeral home where he was. I stayed as far as possible from the open casket. I didn’t want to see my daddy in a box. My mom threw herself on him. Crying, she hugged him and kissed him, begging him to wake up. I tried to creep closer, until I saw his neck. Red and sore, daddy had fallen in between the bed and the nightstand, right around the time we saw the sleeping bird. It was so cold. Everyone was in black except for me. I was in overalls. Mommy didn’t tell me what to wear and I didn’t know what to wear to a funeral. Frankly, neither of us cared. What the hell did it matter? We held each other the entire time, bawling. In between the sobs, I heard the rabbi mispronounce my dad’s name. He kept calling my daddy Ellie instead of Eli. “‘Ellie’ S. Rosenzweig was a beloved son, brother, and uncle.” I think they forgot one. Because my mother was Taiwanese, I was the black sheep. Unlike my blonde-haired blue-eyed cousins, I had dark features and a pale, but not peach complexion. I looked very much like my dad and his siblings actually, but I don’t think they thought so. The next time I saw daddy’s apartment, my Aunt Helene was there with mommy and me. She looked in disgust at the piles my daddy had scattered everywhere. I suddenly felt self-conscious of my crayons kept in a shoebox on top of the glass table next to my couch. She looked through everything, naming all the people who could use another television, probably my uncle. Mommy and I went back to Queens. The chair, the desk, movies and pens, I never saw again. I realized that the worst feeling isn’t calling someone and listening to their voicemail when you know they are there, it is when you know they aren’t and won’t ever be.
The Olivetree Review has been publishing Hunter College student work since 1983. This journal is available in print at Thomas Hunter Room 21...
Published on May 1, 2010
The Olivetree Review has been publishing Hunter College student work since 1983. This journal is available in print at Thomas Hunter Room 21...